And I only recently have had my socks blown off.
As in smoking embers where my socks used to be.
My home entertainment system had been showing its age: the universal remote was the first to give up the ghost. Then the DVD player started dropping segments of MP3 CDs. And it was time for DVR. I'd been casting about for a solution. I'd seen little snipptes about Mac Mini's as media center solutions. but everything I knew about CPUs and power dissipation led me to disbelieve, even tho I've had an iMac DV for 6 years.
So I'm strolling thru the local COSTCO and see Mac Mini bundles - w/ Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, and OS X 10.4 - for $699. Oh, and 11g builtin. But they're the G4 model (the beefier 1.5 GHz version, but PPC nonetheless). However, as I need PPC compatibility testing for some of my products, my judgement acquiesces to my curiousity, and I buy.
After 15 minutes of ferocity tearing apart the oppressive bubble plastic, I jack one of my LCD screens into this cute little brick, and fire the little puppy up. After refreshing itself from my 11g network, its up and running. I dump all my ripped CDs in about 5 minutes. "Hmmm, this is just toooo easy".
Of course I open the terminal to verify our dear friend Perl abides...and am pleasantly greeted by Mssr. Wall's name, and a nicely recent version number (5.8.6).
But alas, I don't have a DVI TV. Never fear, a quick trip to COMPUSA and I acquire not only the requisite SVideo adapter, but a nice little IR remote to boot, all for under $55, incl. tax.
So now my media center is reduced to a tiny brick, a sizeable receiver, and a couple aged (yet outstanding sounding) Dahlquist speakers (I'm listening to some sweet Hawaian slack key guitar as I write this). The remote seems a bit finicky, but Keyspan seems a noble enterprise: OS X *and* Linux support, and even a Developer's link. (Hmm, maybe its time for some IR remote Perl modules ?)
So I listen to a few of my ripped CD's (mostly acoustic: Bela Fleck, Stan Getz, Chris Thile...), and am astounded by the quality compared to my old DVD player.
Then I break the out the DVD's: Three Pickers, and Big Lebowski. Wow, I'm hearing and seeing things the old DVD player never produced.
And the Mini never made a sound. Not a whimper. Not a Whirrr. Not a peep.
It was actaully quieter than the old DVD player. And don't get me started on what my 2.4 GHz laptop with XP Pro would do with even a single track of music ripped at 192 Kbps.
So I am officially impressed. I mean *really* impressed. Until now, I've considered Mssr. Jobs and Apple a bit of a foolish enterprise, primarily targeted to the "art school confidential" audience.
The intent of this lengthy diatribe ? Its primarily intended for me.
Because what Apple has done in the last few years is nothing short of astounding. And no, I'm not talking about iPods (Sony actually had that market several years ago but goofed up w/ bad pricing and bad s/w). The PC as central home entertainment *and* information appliance, all packaged in something you might mistake for a doorstop, is sheer brilliance. And it took guts. When everyone else figured the only market was 19 year olds needing a substitute for their manhood (see also Alienware), Apple slipped behind enemy lines.
This is for me because I occasionally get disheartened when working on things I know to be really important, but which the current landscape of computing "best practices" deigns to be foolish. E.g., "SQL bad, PHP good".
Hence my title: "Persistence of Vision".
Apple and Steve Jobs knew where they were going...and had the guts and patience (and yes, money) to persist. And now they, and all of us, are reaping the rewards. They've redefined the whole concept of "home computing".
Which is a drastic comparison to Microsoft. "XP Media Center" ? Can you say kludge ? Or maybe just "ugly" is sufficient. Either way. it s broken, and pales in comparison to the entire Apple expreience. Apple just works. XPMC barely functions.
Microsoft is all but dead. No vision. Period. The vulture has run out of prey. No, I'm not a a Microsoft hater. Frankly, I don't care about OS's, I've written and maintained enough OS's to know there's nothing much left to see there. But Mssr. Ballmer sounds more like an empty brown paper bag blowing in a high wind than a visionary. It wasn't the SEC/FTC/Justice Dept. that did them in. It was a culture of "just enough to sell something". A shame actually, given their massive resources. Not to mention the brainpower they've been paying to just sit in fancy offices, or sail around the Puget Sound...just to keep them from working for someone else.
Now if only Elgato hadn't run out of EyeTV 250's so soon...